I have a favorite experience, sitting in a train station late at night. Philadelphia, and the station is under renovation. Plywood walls have been erected between some of the tracks and platforms. A man sits alone on a bench: dark glasses, cane, veteran’s cap. I know he cannot see. He stands and signs ‘peace’ as a train rattles through the basement terminal two platforms over. He signals to the onboard passengers, though none can see him because of a plywood barricade I suspect he does not know is there.
I play such events over and over again, letting them insinuate their way into essays and fiction, telling many stories, allowing perspective to shift, the definitions of obstacle, perception and audience to change. I explore how architectures drive narrative events, how essay and story cross-pollinate, how a sequence of appropriated boxes shapes character, how travel makes for the most beautifully flawed thing in this world—a first conversation. I’ve never met a person with a tiny house who doesn’t love to host a party. I’ve never entered a room that hasn’t told me where to sit, or convinced me it didn’t hold something back, an unexpected depth, danger, or vulnerability. The train station is always under renovation in ways that are invisible, and none of us can see all the barriers.
I write characters who are viscerally conscious of physical distance: distance to others, to running water, to their next meal, like two sources of heat or gravity that can sense each other from infinitely far away. I write essays and stories about microculture and kinesics, that vocabulary of gestures that determines the course of relationship and community. Whether a small museum, a stage production, or ship’s crew amid sea ice, these cultures are vulnerable to fracture and cataclysm. They are organisms, to be born, to develop, and to disappear in short order.
I make art to meditate on the practice of conversation, to wonder at its architecture, at what is spoken and what is unspoken, and what is the difference. The purport is always subtextual. It is largely or entirely gestural. My writing almost always arises out of motion, turning corners on a street, turning rocks on a river bank, but every so often I return to the fixed points, the train station. In these cities, there is always some renovation, a rethinking, a door that no longer goes someplace, a corridor grown narrower, some change in course that prior experience has taught me not to see coming.